Your Journey Begins: Exploring the First Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Session

Embarking on any journey starts with a single step. The step towards working on our mental health can be taken within the walls of a therapist’s office during your first Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) session. Let’s delve into what typically unfolds during this first session.

Setting the Stage

Walking into the therapist’s office can evoke a mixture of apprehension and hope. The therapist will aim to develop an environment of trust which sets the stage for the upcoming explorations of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Establishing Rapport

Developing a good relationship is crucial for therapy and this starts in the first CBT session. The therapist will endeavour to establish a genuine connection, creating a foundation for collaboration and growth. Through active listening and empathetic responses, the therapist strives to understand your concerns, goals, and values.

Identifying Concerns

The first CBT session often revolves around identifying the presenting issues and formulating goals for therapy. You may be invited to articulate your reasons for seeking therapy, as well as any symptoms or challenges you’re experiencing.

Together, you and the therapist explore the thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that contribute to your difficulties. This process lays the groundwork for understanding the underlying patterns and triggers that can perpetuate your difficulties.


CBT therapists frequently integrate psychoeducation into the first session to provide you with a foundational understanding of CBT principles and techniques as well as information about health. You may learn about the cognitive model, which explores the interplay between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

Collaborative Goal Setting

A key focus within the early sessions of CBT revolves around collaboratively setting goals for therapy. The reasons for setting goals is that it will act as a guide throughout therapy for yourself and your therapist.

It can be important to identify what is being worked on and where you are going together as well as defining what this will look like. Everyone is an individual and therefore setting goals collaboratively helps maintain this individual focus over the course of therapy.

Introducing Therapeutic Techniques

While the first CBT session lays the groundwork, it also offers a glimpse into the therapeutic techniques that will be employed throughout the course of treatment. Depending on your needs and goals, the therapist may introduce strategies such as cognitive restructuring, behavioural activation, or relaxation techniques.

By familiarising you with these tools, the therapist begins to equip you with some of the skills needed to move forward.

Home practice

A key concept within CBT therapy revolves around maximising all the time you have in therapy and therefore maximising the time between sessions also. At each therapy session you will work with your therapist to set some tasks to be focusing on between sessions.

This may involve things such as reading information about your difficulties, recording moments when your difficulties have been present, keeping a diary or log, running some experiments, etc.


In essence, the first CBT session marks the start, the first step, of a journey towards making some positive changes in your life and working towards improving your mental health.


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